Tales From A Hungry Life

January 4, 2017

New Year, Same Old You?

by Maria Schulz

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

While ringing in the New Year, I often think about those pesky resolutions that I made last year that never stood a chance. Why can’t I be like those superstars out there that go from couch potato to Marathon boy and girl wonders? Why do I continue to be derailed by Hershey’s Krackle and Mr. Goodbar? How come I never went skydiving, saw the Mona Lisa in person, or ticked off any boxes on my Bucket List?

Wise words from Calvin and Hobbes

Wise words from Calvin and Hobbes

I turned to research for the secrets to New Year’s resolution success, and here’s what I found:

92% of people will not reach their goals this New Year. That’s right! You are not alone. Those lousy 8 percenters are!

The reason most people will fail is because they never make specific goals. If your goal is to “feel better,” “look great,” or “get in shape,” here’s a tip. The more specific you are about what you want to achieve, the better. Instead of “feeling better,” determine that you’re going to stop smoking by March or drop 10 pounds by April to lessen the strain on your joints. Get your hair trimmed and colored every 4 weeks so you don’t look in the mirror and see your grandma looking back. Measure your arms, legs, abdomen, and thighs—and set a specific, measurable goal of losing 2 inches, 4 inches, or however many inches it takes to make you feel less like the Michelin Man. That’s how you will keep track of your progress, and make real time adjustments when you’ve stalled or gone backwards.

New-Year-Resolutions

Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Don’t tell yourself: “I will lose weight, eat better, and climb Mount Everest,” and then give up a day or two later because:

  1. a) You don’t even know how to begin losing weight
  2. b) Is only half a bag of potato chips better than the whole bag?
  3. c) You hate climbing the hill outside your house. Who really believes you’re going to climb Mount Everest? Not you, for starters.

Reset your expectations. Choose to lose 5 pounds. Once that goal is achieved, choose to lose another 5. Keep going until you hit your intended goal. Saying “I’ll lose 100 pounds by March” this January only sets you up for failure. And P.S.: skip the potato chips. Eat an apple.

Stay away

Stay away

Know thyself. If you’re like me and you know your triggers, do yourself a favor: don’t let them anywhere near you. I can’t have a bag of chocolates in my cupboard because their siren song lures me to their rocky shoals. Keep those b*tches out of your house!

Give yourself a break. Any big change comes with successes and failures. Yes, you will be stoked when you take three steps forward. But will you throw in the towel when you take two steps back? Make believe you are your own child. Would you berate them for failing or encourage them to keep going? Be kind to yourself. Everybody screws up. It takes courage to forge ahead.

Get moving

Get moving

Ditch the “all-or-nothing” and “Weekend Warrior” attitude. You can have a cookie but you have to cut the calories elsewhere or you will not succeed later. You can also exercise a little bit all week long instead of trying to compensate by exercising like a maniac over the weekend. This will only lead to injuries. Do a little bit every day and you’ll see results. Just like the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race.

 

Replace Bad Habits with Something Fun. Lying on the couch, having an existential crisis (why oh why haven’t I become the next J.K. Rowling???), and wondering what TV show I will watch next gets boring. But popping in Just Dance and figuring out the steps while I rock out to Bruno Mars is never dull. I know it’s funny, because my kids can’t stop laughing.

Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

Congratulate yourself for a job well done. Did you accomplish even part of your goals? Give yourself the proverbial gold star. Yes, folks—I am an 8 percenter! I lost 18 pounds last year and I haven’t managed to find them again (yet). The only reason I achieved this goal was that I took the time to:

  • Download an app that lets me log my food intake every single day. Yes, that becomes a drag really fast. But you know what’s a bigger drag? Blindly trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong when the pounds stop coming off. All I have to do is look at my food log and I know what the problem is. Potato chips and chocolate are usually the culprits.
  • Keep up that gym membership. Yeah, I don’t really love the gym. I wish I did, but let’s face it: I’d rather be lying on the couch. But you know what? I’m always delighted by myself after I’ve finished. So, I pull my slug-like body up, lace up those sneakers, and go before I’ve talked myself out of it.
  • Bring lunch to work. I still go out with my friends, but since I’ve already eaten, I don’t need to eat a burrito that is almost as big as me (sometimes I give in to the burrito’s siren song, because being good all the time is an equally big recipe for disaster)
  • I can’t lose weight if my four food groups are McDonald’s, Burger King, Five Guys, and IHOP. I signed up for lots of newsletters that give me great recipes that are healthy, delicious, and fast so I’m not tempted to get take-out…and lay on the couch afterwards berating myself.
Get your gold stars here

Get your gold stars here

I may not have met Mona Lisa face to face yet, but the year is young! Now I’m off to make a plan….

Recipe:

Steak and Blue Cheese Wraps

Delicious!

Delicious!

You can also use sirloin steak (instead of flank steak, if you prefer) and reduced fat mayo with blue cheese crumbles (instead of the dressing). But either way, these wraps are delicious and satisfying.

 

So, Hungry Lifers…are you one of the 8 percenters? What goals are you trying to achieve this year? What’s your favorite healthy dinner recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

 

December 22, 2016

10 Tips for Surviving The Office Holiday Party

by Maria Schulz

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…well, almost. You’ve got a million things to do and no time to do it. Of course, in the middle of all of this madness marches the Office Holiday Party! While making merry with your colleagues can be a hoot and a holla, there are some landmines you must avoid. So, without further ado, here are my…

Wait! I'm not ready

Wait! I’m not ready

10 Tips For Navigating The Sometimes Rocky Shoals of the Office Christmas Party

#10. If it’s a party at a fancy location, don’t dress like you’re going to a ho-down. This ain’t hot dogs and burgers on the company lawn. Deny thy “hee-haw” ways and reach into your closet for an outfit that would make your momma proud.

Not the look you're going for

Not the look you’re going for

#9. Don’t dress like Lady Gaga in her meat dress. This is an office holiday party. Your hero may be Lady Marmalade/The American Gigolo, but save that look for clubbing with friends. Would Grandma gag if she saw your outfit? If the answer is even “maybe,” then look for a more suitable get-up.

#8. Don’t drink yourself silly. Sure, a glass or two of your favorite alcoholic beverage is a great way to loosen up and enjoy yourself. But everyone knows/has a story about that office co-worker who got plastered at the party and then told the CEO what a total nimrod/creepy jerk he/she has been all year. You probably love that story. But…don’t be that person!

Run away!

Run away!

#7. Steer clear of the office gossip. Of course it’s amusing to hear about Peggy and Peter and their raging office affair, or how Mr. Smithers from the executive office is hot for Penelope Pittstop from accounting. But hanging around with the Office Gossip may just land you in the next story about something stupid you’ve done, or make you guilty by association. You don’t want to be the next punchline in his stand-up routine.

#6. If the Office Suck Up/Do Nothing wins an award, smile and clap politely. There are greater travesties of justice to rail about in the outside world. Raining on this person’s parade just makes you look like a jerk.

So long, Crabby

So long, Crabby

#5. Should your co-worker ask if he/she can sit at your mostly empty table during the cocktail hour, of course welcome them. That’s the case even if this person makes your gag reflex work on overdrive. You have to work with this person the rest of the year. Chalk it up to the spirit of Christmas or your second glass of wine, but do it. Keep that smile on your face and the conversation light. Invite others to join you. You’ll live, and maybe this lonely, crabby outcast from the office will carry that goodwill you’ve expressed forward into your daily interactions.

Weather? Check. Shopping? Check.

Weather? Check. Shopping? Check.

#4. Brush up on your small talk in the days leading up to the event. Find neutral, non-offensive topics to discuss and practice on your significant others. “Can you believe how hot/cold/rainy/snowy it’s been?” “Did you do all of your shopping yet?” “Are you going away for the holidays?” are all great starters, and they might just get the dud sitting next to you off and running.

#3. Don’t overshare. No, this is NOT the time or place to tell everyone you come in contact with about that hilarious time you did a drunken version of “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” on your old office karaoke machine or how you egged the boss’s car after last year’s party. That’s old news, or at least you better hope it is. Don’t go there.

Dance like Snoopy

Dance like Snoopy

#2. If there’s dancing, get up and dance. The hours fly by when you’re out there, and even if you look like Elaine on Seinfeld, you’re still having a good time. The boss sprung for a DJ/band. You might as well enjoy it.

Don't be that person

Don’t be that person

#1. Thank the hoi polloi in charge for a lovely event. Maybe the food was terrible, the band gave you a headache, and 5 hours of merry making with people you’ve already spent 40 hours with this week seems like overkill. So what? Don’t be a Debbie Downer. You got to go to a party. It’s not like you spent the day working in a salt mine.

Recipe

Reindeer Cake!

Let them eat Reindeer Cake! Enjoy this recipe from the Food Network and watch the video so you can see how to decorate it perfectly. Go ahead, make Santa proud! Two words: ganache and pretzels. ‘Nuff said.

So…what are your best tips for surviving the office holiday party? What’s your best holiday party story? Favorite recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks! Enjoy.

November 17, 2016

12 Thanksgiving Ideas that are Fun for Everyone

by Maria Schulz

Popcorn and toast, anyone?

Popcorn and toast, anyone?

Thanksgiving can be tricky. Sometimes, it’s a day when families catch up, laugh a lot, and enjoy their time together. Other times…not so much. There’s always a fun story about a drunken uncle, a bossy mother-in-law, or a whiney friend who sucks the life out of the party by telling everyone at the table about his recent bout with hemorrhoids or scabies.

Let me tell you about my latest illness

Let me tell you about my latest illness

Most people I know are NOT going to have the quintessential “Kennedy-esque” game of touch football on the front lawn while their giant turkey cooks to perfection. Come to think of it, the Kennedys probably weren’t even that happy to be together, touch football or no touch football.

We look just like the Kennedys

We look just like the Kennedys

Whether you’re off to a large gathering or just a small, intimate celebration, it’s always good to have ice breakers and conversation starters on hand. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few ideas to keep your special day from going off the rails. Here are some of my suggestions.

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

Twelve Thanksgiving Games that are Fun for Everyone

  1. Take Bets. How long will it be before Grandma tells you how she worked 12 jobs at your age and you’re a lazy loser? How many male relatives will fall asleep with their pants undone while they snore in front of a football game on TV? How many lumps in Mom’s gravy? You get the idea.
Get your game on

Get your game on

  1. Break out the board games. That turkey is going to take a while. Why not get in a quick game of Life? Uno? Scattergories? Pictionary? Truth or Dare? Who’s Most Likely To? Never Have I Ever… (or Would You Rather… if there are kids around)? Cards Against Humanity? You can keep it clean for the kids and have lots of laughs.
  1. Set up a Group Pool/Prize. Yeah, maybe Aunt Sally couldn’t care less who’s playing football today. But I bet she’ll care if there’s money at stake, and it will keep people busy while you cook the turkey. You can also bet on the outcome of the Dog Show, a corny holiday movie, or murder mystery. $5 per person and the winner doesn’t have to help clean up.
While you deep fry your turkey

While you deep fry your turkey

  1. Play Telephone or the Minister’s Cat. Yes, these are oldies, but they’re always fun.
  1. Go outdoors between dinner and dessert. Play Bocce ball or Running Bases—adults and children alike can use some fresh air. Walk the dog while you’re at it. And yes, you can even channel your inner Kennedy and play a game of Touch Football.
Run off that turkey dinner

Run off that turkey dinner

  1. Stay inside. Play Wii bowling, football, or Olympics. Go on Playstation and play Walking Dead, Batman, Just Dance, or Dancing with the Stars.
You too can score a "10"

You too can score a “10”

  1. Use your cell phone and download the app for HeadsUp. It’s really just Charades, but you hold the phone up to your head so that everyone else can see the word, and the other people in the room try to give you clues about it. You have to guess before time is up. It’s quick, fun, and very addictive. Hint: if you don’t have a smartphone, you could just write words on cards and hold them up to your head while everyone else gives you clues. Sometimes old school is the right way to go.
  1. Play “Two Truths and One Lie.” Each person around the dinner table tells everyone two things that are true about him or her, as well as one lie. If someone guesses the lie, you take a shot (or eat vegetables, pie, etc.)
Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

  1. Another great game is What If? This app comes with fun what if/but then scenarios that a person has to answer. The results are usually hilarious.
  1. Plan a TV or Movie Marathon! Choose a holiday themed comedy like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to get everybody laughing (who doesn’t like John Candy?). Or, binge watch The Godfather Trilogy or Orange is the New Black together. Your call!
Those aren't pillows

Those aren’t pillows

  1. Put a slip of paper with a question on it underneath everyone’s plate. Before you pass the turkey, ask everyone to pull out the slip and, one by one, read and answer the question on it. Depending on the crowd, the questions could be, “What are you most thankful for?” “What are you least thankful for?” “Where did you spend your worst Thanksgiving (hopefully the answer isn’t your house).” “What was your first girlfriend’s name?” “What’s the most embarrassing thing you ever did?” “What was your worst job—and why?”
Better than a Magic 8 Ball

Better than a Magic 8 Ball

  1. Experience Your Own Version of Karaoke Madness. You know you want to unleash your inner Beyonce. Go ahead, make their day! But don’t take this one too seriously. It’s always better if you’re not very good.

Recipes:

Thanksgiving Appetizers

FNK Flat Content; 3-Ingredient Thanksgiving Appetizers; Opener

Let’s eat

Find everything from stuffed mushrooms and deviled eggs to ricotta stuffed bacon wrapped dates, spiced pecans, and goat cheese with fresh dill. It’s the perfect way to set the mood for a fun party that everyone will enjoy.

Cocktails!

What I'm Thankful For

What I’m Thankful For

If you want to do drinking games or just have some fun cocktails on Thanksgiving, check out these recipes on Food Network. There’s a Pumpkin Pie Martini, Bourbon Negroni, Apple Toddy, Cider Punch, and dozens more cocktail choices.

I've got a lot to be thankful for

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

So, what are your family traditions on Thanksgiving? Do you eat and then crash on the couch until dessert is served? Watch the parade and dog show? Watch football games in between bites of turkey? Do a 5K Turkey Trot? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Happy Thanksgiving!

September 14, 2016

Carb Love

by Maria Schulz

For the past year, I’ve been watching my calories and trying to eat better. I have not forsaken all of the things that I love because to do so would send me into the old, familiar spiral of binging on everything I just declared I would never touch again.

Now if this was hanging from the tree...

Now if this was hanging from the tree…

Forbidden fruit was not just Eve’s problem. I would’ve never gotten thrown out of The Garden of Eden for eating an apple. If there were cookies, pancakes, waffles, or donuts hanging from the trees, that’s another story.

I can remember playing in my family’s basement with my twin brother as my older brothers and mother milled about on a lazy Sunday morning. My Dad would walk triumphantly through the door holding a bag that smelled like heaven.

Inside of that bag were 9 glistening donuts. My mom handed me one and I bit into it, feeling the steaming hot dough traveling into my waiting belly as jelly trickled down my fingers and across my face. Meanwhile, my brothers stuck their jelly-laden tongues out at me and smiled with jelly all over their teeth.

D'oh! Donuts!

D’oh! Donuts!

The bakery down the block called to us with its siren song of fresh donuts, Italian bread, zeppole, tri-color cookies, crullers, pies, and pizza. Late at night, when the windows were open and the bakery ovens were lit, you could smell the bread and desserts baking. I could look out the window and see the stars in the skies and drift off to sleep while breathing in what I began to think of as family parties and laughter.

More recently, my cousin Eleanor has invited me over to her home for breakfast on weekend mornings. She and her husband, Bob, make light, fluffy homemade waffles. Each one comes out out thick and fresh, simultaneously soft and crunchy. I smother mine in syrup and eat it with gusto as we share stories from our lives.

From tales of growing up in Corona or Bayside, living in Alaska or Ridgewood, books we’re reading or the current state of affairs in America, there is always great food, great conversation, and lots of laughs.

Eleanor and Maria, a few years ago

Eleanor and Maria, a few years ago

From those early days of jelly donuts to my more recent waffle breakfasts, delicious carbs have always equaled good times. The trick for me now is letting myself enjoy a treat every now and then so I don’t go stark raving mad and eat every carb I can lay my hands on.

Here’s one of the many recipes that I found that offers a taste of the best of both worlds. Take the humble waffle and combine it with your favorite donut flavors, and what have you got? The Wonut, of course.

Yum! Wonuts

Yum! Wonuts

This is a pretty clever way to make an easy dessert with your waffle iron. The article above suggests using chocolate and sprinkles, which I love. Here’s the recipe.

I can’t change my love for waffles and donuts. They are so closely intertwined with happy memories for me that I will never be happy without them. Let’s face it: I’m a carb addict, and when a carb addict dreams, they aren’t dreaming of kale and protein drinks.

My carb dreams include Italian bread just pulled from the oven, ready to be slathered in whipped butter; Boston crème donuts (my favorite, and part of my Slim’s Bagels lunch special during my high school years); and Belgian waffles smothered in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.

Did somebody say wonut?

Did somebody say wonut?

So for now, I’m rewriting the script on my relationship with carbs. They can be in my life, but our love affair has to be redefined. In the wise words of that ear-worm song that Selena Gomez sings, “I’m so sick of that same old love. My body’s had enough!” You said it, sister.

Recipe: Wonut with Sliced Strawberries, Blueberries, and Bananas

Ingredients

Waffle

¼ cup Strawberries

¼ cup Blueberries

½ Banana

1-2 tablespoons whipped cream

Let’s face facts: the Wonut is not a healthy treat. Still, you can enjoy one as long as you add some fiber, vitamins, and minerals (not to mention healthy sugars) along with our carb fix, while slashing the calories.

Strawberries are in season, and I’ve got a ton of them. I also just bought two pints of blueberries, as well as organic bananas. Slice your fruit and put it on top of your wonut/waffle creation. Add a little whipped cream and voila! You’ve got a delicious and satisfying treat that isn’t a total calorie bomb.

Yum

Yum

If you’re desperate for some chocolate, melt some and dip your strawberries. Put them in the refrigerator overnight and they’ll be ready to enjoy in the morning, or anytime. Start with a bar of high quality semisweet or bittersweet baking chocolate. Chop it up into squares. Put it in a microwave safe bowl and place it in the microwave for about a minute on medium high. Stir and repeat at 15 to 20 second intervals until it’s melted and has a smooth consistency. You can use it to dip your fruit or just drizzle a little bit over your wonut for a chocolaty hit.

Good eats

Good eats

For those of us without a waffle iron, here’s a trick: use frozen waffles. Try to get one that is higher in fiber to maximize your fiber intake.

To get the full “wonut” experience, take it out of the fridge and toast it. Then, take a large juice glass, press it into the waffle and make a circular indentation. Pull of the edges so you have a perfect circle. Take a smaller juice glass and press out the middle (less bread = less carbs). Or, buy the kind of waffles that are already round. Add your toppings and enjoy your Wonut. You’ve earned it!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite carb-heavy treat? How would you decorate your Wonut? What food combination is your favorite? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

July 8, 2016

The 12 Annoying Habits of Highly Irritating Co-Workers

by Maria Schulz

Great co-workers

Great co-workers

Let me just say: I have had the privilege to work with some of the best people in the world. My colleagues, past and present, are creative, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and capable. They are true problem solvers and go-getters who come to the office every day and produce great work under all kinds of conditions. They show their humanity by holding doors open for others, taking care of their families, helping old ladies cross the street, volunteering at soup kitchens, saving animals in need, and giving of themselves relentlessly.

debbie downer

But let’s be honest: I have also worked with some real lemons. Some co-workers have had all the charm of a Manson family member and yet none of the manners. They floated through life with disgusting habits, a Debbie Downer attitude, no work ethic, verbal incontinence, and zero compassion.

It’s inevitable that people at work will get on your nerves. After all, you spend more time with those people then you do with the people you love. Forty hours a week is a lot of time for people to do annoying things.

You may be saying to yourself: really? Give me one good example of an annoying thing someone has done. Well, guess what? You’re in luck, because here are:

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

The Twelve Annoying Habits of Highly Irritating Co-Workers

  1. Using the office scissors to clip your toenails. There are some things you should NEVER do at work. Certainly, if you have a private office with a door you can lock, you can save me the horror of witnessing this moment in your personal hygiene regimen. I don’t understand why you’re clipping your toenails at work, or why you feel the need to attend to your cruddy feet during office hours—but at least you’ve got the good sense to HIDE. However, if you are one of the unwashed masses working in an open floor plan or you are in an open cubicle, skip this nasty chore. That’s what home is for. And for your health as well as mine, invest in your own pair of scissors.
Twilight-zone-the-monsters-are-due-on-maple-street

Oh the horror…

  1. Reading the Avon catalog like it’s Playboy. You never know who might walk into the coffee room, so if you’re ogling the ladies in bras and lingerie from the Avon catalog like it’s a XXX mag, I beg of you: STOP. And please, wash your hands before you touch the coffee pot.
  1. Stealing the Avon catalog. Hey! There are lots of other people in the office who want to buy Avon and/or ogle the pretty ladies. Your poor underpaid co-worker is trying to make a second living here.
Betty_Grable_20th_Century_Fox

Foxy lady

  1. Touching every single munchkin before deciding you don’t want one anyway because you think you may have the stomach virus. Do I need to explain this one?
  1. Coming to work when you think you have the stomach virus. And hanging around in my doorway, telling me about your severe GI distress. Ditto if you’ve got a raging cold, scabies, lice, or a wound that just won’t close. By the way, I don’t need to know how you contracted malaria. 

    Stay home

    Stay home

  1. Making believe you don’t know how to make coffee after you just drank your twelfth cup. Come on…really?
  1. Eating someone else’s lunch. You know you didn’t make yourself lunch. Just in case you’re wondering, the lunch gods didn’t make you one either.
My Mom really does hate you

My Mom really does hate you

  1. Bringing your small child to work and letting him run up and down the aisles screaming: “MY MOTHER HATES YOU ALL!” While I find this hilarious, you may get in trouble.
  1. Heating up your smelly, disgusting lunch in the tiny, windowless room we call our kitchen. How I love working as the smell of rancid Tiger Fish Surprise wafts all around me.
Can't we all just get along?

Yes, I left the microwave a mess

  1. Leaving the only working microwave so full of tomato sauce, it looks like a murder victim was in there. Just in case you missed the memo, your momma doesn’t work here. Clean up your mess.
I had nothing to do with your car's damage

I had nothing to do with your car’s damage

  1. Parking so close to my car that I would have to be Harry Houdini to get into it. I find this especially annoying when there are twelve empty spots adjacent to where you parked. Also, making believe you aren’t the one who smashed my car door makes you King of the Jerks. Just sayin’.
Popcorn and toast, anyone?

When in doubt, popcorn is the answer

  1. Arguing with your soon-to-be ex on the phone in a voice so loud it would make a carnival barker blush. Am I supposed to comfort you when you start sobbing? Make believe I don’t hear you? Bring popcorn? I’m never really sure. But I do know one thing…I’m not making popcorn in the microwave because it will stink up the place.

Recipe: 38 Grilled Fish Recipes

This looks delicious

This looks delicious

You’ll find Foil-Pack Shrimp Scampi, Grilled Cod Tacos with Chipotle Crema, Lemony Grilled Salmon, Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Siracha Slaw, Thai Catfish Skewers, and more. Just think how delighted your co-workers will be when you put your leftovers in the shared office microwave the next day.

So, Hungry Lifers: what crazy, thoughtless, or completely over-the-top habits have you encountered in the small, cramped, Nirvanah-like space you call work? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

May 26, 2016

When Driving With Teenagers…

By Maria Schulz

As a mom, I’ve played many different roles: Chef; Laundress; Bottle Washer; Maid; Gardener; Entertainment Coordinator (think Julie from the Love Boat); Procurement Specialist; Captain of the Cheerleading Squad; Disciplinarian; Hand Holder; Head of Emergency Medical Services; Fashion Police; Emotional Support Services; Godzilla Rampaging Through Tokyo; Drill Sergeant; Attorney; Dog Walker; Head Coach; Executive Assistant.

My childhood limo

My childhood limo

But by far, my favorite job has always been Chauffeur.

When my girls were little, they loved listening to music in the car and singing along with me. They enjoyed my witty repartee with their little friends and they laughed at all of my jokes. They danced to songs with me and laughed when I belted out the words to all of the songs they knew.

Twilight-zone-the-monsters-are-due-on-maple-street

Oh…the horror!

But then…they suddenly morphed into teenagers. Enter hormones, lightning-fast mood changes, and constant, inexplicable, irrational thought processes. Too young to drive and too old to be happy having me in the car, it was the perfect storm of angst and outright anger.

That's one angry bunch

That’s one angry bunch

Were you always one of those parents who looked at teenagers and said, “Oh, my little Sally/Richie would never act like that!” Did you look at befuddled parents of teens and shake your head in silent disgust? Now that you find yourself the parent of a teen, do you wonder how you landed in this foreign land, filled with strange beings that sort of look like you? Did you ever think you’d be a source of embarrassment…just like your parents? Geez, if you didn’t have a license, your kids might not even find a use for you.

For those of you who have not yet had the joy of experiencing this phenomenon first hand, don’t worry (too much). This startling transformation can be dealt with, but only if you have a road map, a sense of humor, and a thick skin. In the interest of helping you weather this particular storm, I’m going to give you a Master Class in Parenting/Driving With Your Teens. Think of me as Oprah, only without any money and certainly without any clout.

Welcome to my Master Class

Welcome to my Master Class

15 Things to Remember When Driving With Teens

  1. For the love of God, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING!
  2. While you’re at it, DO NOT EVER SING!

    Sing it with me one more time!

    Sing it with me one more time!

  3. Please, please, please…do not try to interact with your teen’s friends. That’s like, AWKWARD! Just because they don’t make you wear a uniform, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to certain informalities.
  4. If Elle King comes on the radio, do not show a car filled with teens how cool you are by singing X’s and Ohs. This is definitely NOT COOL. When in doubt, remember Rules #1 & 2.
  5. Likewise, NEVER, EVER share funny little tidbits about your past dating life. Like, EWWWW! #DONTGOTHERE
  6. If Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake starts playing on the radio, DO NOT ASK your teen’s friends if they know how to twerk
  7. And please…do NOT EVER offer to show them how to twerk

    This is what your dancing looks like to them

    This is what your dancing looks like to them

  8. If a new guy or girl gets into the car, DO NOT EVER ask them “where they see themselves in 5 years.” LAME!
  9. When someone you interpret as a gawky teenager whizzes by on his skateboard, do not make chit chat by saying “Hey, who’s that man child riding a skateboard?” Like, he’s Hunter, only the COOLEST BOY in the ENTIRE 12th grade! DUH!
  10. When your teen puts on a 90s station and he/she and his/her friends start taking about how great that era’s music was, NEVER exclaim: “Oh yeah, man. It was great—AND I WAS THERE!”
  11. If and when you offer to drive the neighbor kids to school, please don’t forget they’re in the back seat and start driving away before they get out of the car
  12. DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, yell out the window as your teen walks away: “I LOVE YOU!,” “HOPE YOU HAVE A SUPER DAY,” or “MOMMY/DADDY THINKS YOU’RE THE GREATEST!”
  13. There are some things you should never do. NEVER, EVER reenact the scene from Wayne’s World where they rock out to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody…even if it’s just the two of you in that car

    Party on, Garth

    Party on, Garth

  14. Restrain yourself from beeping, waving, or stopping the car to greet and chat with passing teachers, principals, priests, nuns, parents, relatives, friends, or classmates your teen would rather die than be seen with (basically, that means anyone). NOT COOL!
  15. Always remember: you can drop your teen off at the mall, at school, or at any fast food joint they like, but NEVER at the front door. And if anyone asks, YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR TEENAGER!

Recipe:

Eating Well Frozen Mochaachino

Low Cal and Delicious!

Low Cal and Delicious!

Here’s a great alternative to Starbucks (since you’re not allowed within a thousand yards of it anyway). This low cal, low fat frozen drink rings in at 127 calories (instead of 270 for a small mocha frappuccino) and gives you just the jolt you need to deal with your teen and keep a smile on your face.

So, Hungry Lifers…has your teen ever been EMBARRASSED TO DEATH by the very sight of you breathing? Are your kids too little for you to believe any of this? Have your kids grown out of this phase? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

May 11, 2016

The Best Sandwiches Ever

By Maria Schulz

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times called “The Best Sandwich Ever.” The author likes to play a game with his kids where he lists his top 5 sandwiches of all time. Wait a minute…I want to play!

I wasn’t sure I could come up with five, but once I started thinking about it, I wasn’t sure I could keep the list down to only five choices. This was hard work! Okay, so I’m not working in a salt mine or panning for gold, but still.

So good!

So good!

Sandwich #5: The Breakfast Burrito

My husband, girls, and I found this little place a few blocks off of Union Square in downtown San Francisco that serves the best breakfast burrito bar none. Eggs, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and potatoes are expertly seasoned, cooked, and folded into a burrito shell, for a sandwich sensation. If it had its own cult following, I would join. Wash it down with their freshly squeezed orange juice for a taste of perfection.

Perfect for summer grilling

Perfect for summer grilling

Sandwich #4: Sausage & Peppers

The year was 1987. My friend, Dorothy, and I were in Boston visiting our pal Lisa. Lisa went to college there and took us to see all the sights: Harvard, a new restaurant called Legal Seafoods, and of course, Cheers, the very real bar that served as the fictional home to Sam and Diane of TV fame.

But the thing I remember most about that weekend was walking into Fenway Park. It was so small compared to Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium, but I loved the intimate feel of the place. There was the Green Monster! (Bucky Dent, I love you still).

Thanks, Bucky

Thanks, Bucky

The Mets were fresh off their World Series win and Boston fans were still smarting over that one. Did I gloat? Well, maybe a little (but only on the inside…I didn’t want to get killed at Fenway Park). I soon realized we had more in common than the sum of our differences when I bit into a sausage and pepper “hoagie” on thick, crusty Italian bread. Smoky and sweet, crunchy and soft, it made me proud to be Italian. (But still not a Red Sox fan).

Sandwich #3: The Gobble, Gobble Panini

It's starting to feel a lot like Thanksgiving

It’s starting to feel a lot like Thanksgiving

My local diner offers this treat that’s truly Thanksgiving on a plate. Take roasted turkey, a thin layer of stuffing, a healthy dollop of cranberries, and just a splash of gravy on hearty ciabatta bread. If you don’t have a Panini press, here’s a tip: place your sandwich in a heavy-bottomed skillet and then place another skillet on top to flatten your sandwich). One bite and you’ll feel thankful too. Sweet potatoes or sweet potato fries make the perfect side.

Ah...summer

Ah…summer

Sandwich #2: Lobster Roll

I’ve had this sandwich at a beautiful restaurant in Mystic, CT as well as at a roadside shack in Northport, NY. No matter what the setting, this sandwich is always KILLER.

Traditional New England Lobster Rolls come with mayonaisse, but I prefer a sprinkle of drawn, melted butter. Season it all well and put it into a soft, chewy hot dog roll and you’ve got magic!

Sandwich #1: Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Yum!

Yum!

A couple of summers ago, my husband and I had a rare day off when the kids were at camp. We spent our morning at the beach and by lunchtime, we were famished. We drove straight to a beautiful restaurant on the water and ordered the Curried Chicken Salad on Crunchy Baguettes and a glass of white wine.

Maybe it was the company (always great) or the sunshine (I love me some Vitamin D), but this sandwich was spectacular. Whenever I have it again, it brings me right back to that happy, sunshine-filled day with a loaf of bread (baguettes), a jug of wine (okay, just a glass), and my sweetheart.

Recipes: Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich

Full-fat version

Low-fat version

So, Hungry Lifers…what would your TOP 5 sandwiches be? Understand that I left off my mother’s meatball sandwiches on Italian bread (to paraphrase Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, “it coulda been a contender.” This goes without saying, but I would love to have another one of these) and my Aunt Mary’s Eggs and Peppers sandwiches…also the BOMB, and I mean that in the best way. Please leave a comment and let us all know about your favorites. Thanks, and happy eating!

 

May 2, 2016

A Hairy Story

by Maria Schulz

All right, I’ll admit it: my hair and I have had two very separate minds for most of my life. It all started when my cousin Angela asked if she could cut off my waist-length hair.

“Will it grow back in time for school?” I asked. (I was only 7, and It was August, by the way).

“Um, sure!” she said.

the-way-of-love-album-cover

I remember the sheer look of delight on Angela’s face when she was done. I also remember being very cold on the drive home, even though it was 85 degrees out. No worries though. My hair would grow back by September! Or not. I’m still waiting.

I never really had a hairstyle that I loved as much as that Cher-inspired, waist-length, straight as can be ‘do. Although, I did try really hard to find “the one.”

There was the Dorothy Hamill hair cut that I decided to get when every other girl on the planet got one too. Dorothy looked so cute! Look at her with her gold medal and pixie hair cut. I might never win a gold medal, but I was sure I could look equally adorable. Except…I looked more like Tony Danza in Taxi than Dorothy Hamill on the podium.

dorothy hamill

Looks good on her…

Fast forward to the ‘80s. High hair, perms, and mousse ruled the land. The models in the salon posters all looked FANTASTIC with their gigantic hair. If I looked just like those women in the posters, I was sure my life would be so much more fun.

There would be nights on the town! Laughter and merriment! Good times and great people. I got those hairstyles, and I met lots of amazing people, but still, something wasn’t quite right. I looked like a crazy, windblown peasant girl. Or, as my old Stern’s pal and co-worker John B. put it, I looked kind of like this.

lucy grape stomping

By the time the 80s ended, I thought I was over hair fads. So imagine my friend Dorothy’s surprise when I showed up on her wedding day in my bridesmaid’s gown looking like Joan Jett’s twin sister. I don’t think she was happy, but I was (if only I was half as successful at recreating this look the next day!)

Joan Jett

Yes, by the 90s I had sworn off those silly, hard-to-manage celebrity hairstyles for good. Until…Friends became the hottest show on television, and Rachel had the cutest hair. My poor hairstylist had to recreate this look for me (I’m pretty sure she hated it as much as I loved it). I have to admit, this style looked great on me, but it was a gigantic pain to keep up! No wonder Jennifer Aniston hated it.

rachel

Here’s the thing about my hair. It goes where it wants, whether I spend hours on it or let it air dry. Either way, I end up looking like this.

Bram Stokers Dracula

I finally made peace with it. I’m an adult now, and I understand that celebrities have one huge thing that I don’t: stylists! They have professionals spending hours and hours making them look fantastic. I’m lucky if I have 15 minutes to blow dry my hair. It’s time for me to accept the curly, wild, unpredictable, dense mane that the good Lord (and my Mama) gave me. Although these days, I really think I could pull this celebrity hairstyle off.

Betty White

Recipe: Angel Hair Pasta Primavera

I’ve made this recipe on numerous occasions and it’s always a big hit. I like to try different pastas, so spaghetti, penne, or angel hair pasta (my daughters’ favorite) all work. Your call! Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list. Pick your favorite vegetables, roast them, and go from there. You won’t be sorry! This is quick, delicious, and very satisfying.

no-cream pasta primavera

So, Hungry Lifers: do you have a love-hate relationship with your hair? Do you have hair? What was your favorite type of hairstyle EVER? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

April 12, 2016

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day

by Maria Schulz

There are lots of unofficial “holidays” floating around out there that marketers love to tout. For instance, yesterday was “National Pet Day.” I didn’t realize we needed a day for that. Everyday is National Pet Day here at my house. “World Laughter Day” is coming up on May 1, and of course, May 4th is Star Wars Day. You’ll know it because everyone will be walking around wearing Star Wars ties and tee-shirts, and you’ll get lots of emails from merchants with the subject line: May the Fourth Be With You!

Still great.

Still great.

Today friends, is National Grilled Cheese Day. Now, lots of these holidays have no meaning for me, but this one absolutely does. If there’s someone out there who doesn’t love a great grilled cheese…well, I can’t understand that. I mean, are you CRAZY?

My love affair with the grilled cheese began long ago, and of course it got me in trouble. When I was 8, my mom bought a new toaster. Since I always used the old toaster to make my version of a grilled cheese (it was just a melted cheese sandwich, but no one would let me use the stove), I slapped my bread and cheese in and waited for the magic to happen.

Do NOT put cheese in there

Do NOT put cheese in there

Unfortunately, the fact that the new toaster was not a toaster oven like the old one sailed over my head. I can still see my mother trying to scrape the cheese out of her new, now destroyed, toaster. She got so mad at me that I hid in my room and didn’t go back to school in time for the after lunch bell. I thought she’d realize I was still home, but she just kept ranting in the kitchen about what a moron I was until I came out…and got yelled at for being late for school.

Eventually, my mother bought a new toaster (oven) and life went on like before. There were lots of cheese sandwiches in my future. Remarkably, my parents eventually allowed me to use a skillet and fire to make grilled cheese, and I never looked back. I learned some important things, among them: NEVER PUT CHEESE IN A REGULAR TOASTER. These are life skills, people.

As a mom myself, the grilled cheese was a go-to lunch item that my husband, kids, and I always enjoyed. I was good at making them, but by far, the all-time Champion Grilled Cheese Cook of the World was my mother-in-law, Irene (Nana, to my kids),

So good

So good

With a couple of slices of bread, a slice or two of American or Cheddar cheese, a dab of butter and a hot grill pan, Irene/Nana could make magic. Her grilled cheese sandwiches looked like something out of a stylized photo shoot. The aroma used to send us all into a tizzy (dog included), making us circle the kitchen and erupt into cheers of LUNCH! LUNCH! LUNCH! Of course, while she cooked, she would share cheese with our dogs (first Cokey, then Trixie), giving her Most Beloved Human status.

I can still see her there in my kitchen buttering the bread, adding the cheese, flipping the whole thing over, and using a heavy spatula on top to help the bread crisp up. From her white curls on top of her head to the Dr. Scholl’s shoes on her feet, Irene was as All-American as…well, grilled cheese.

Irene the teen

Irene the teen

She’d wear her regulation “Nana” garb, which consisted of a long gray sweater with big pockets for tissues, medicines, or hard candies, over a floral blouse and black slacks. Irene would tell hilarious stories about her life growing up in Ridgewood, Queens: she was the first person to create and own a pet rock, which she walked down Fresh Pond Road on a leash. She never cashed in on her big idea and was really annoyed when it made its second creator millions in the ’70s. Irene had endearing and not-so-endearing nicknames for her friends and relatives, including “The Stick” for her ridiculously thin neighbor and “The Battle Axe” for her nasty, difficult grandmother. Irene told us of her life growing up during the Depression and Prohibition (when some relatives made hooch in the bathtub), and she sold war bonds, painted her legs with “seams” when pantyhose were scarce, and waited for her fella to come home from the War (that fella was my husband’s Dad) in the 1940s. She was, as her father would’ve called her, a real “tomato.”

Not Irene

Not Irene

When my kids would ask her where her family came from, she would reply: “Philadelphia.” She was an All-American girl, and even though her family came here on a boat just like my family, that was so long ago that they didn’t think about it much anymore.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

She’d tell the kids to come in and sit down, pushing her glasses back up on the bridge of her nose and gesturing to us to take our seats. Then she’d serve us our grilled cheese sandwiches and dole out the tomato soup that was its natural partner…and we would eat…and talk…and laugh.

On this National Grilled Cheese Day, I’d like to raise a glass of (soda/wine/water) and a delicious cheese sandwich in her memory. My mother-in-law may be gone now, but she will always be remembered…especially on holidays, real and random…and every other day too.

Recipes:

Healthy Grilled Cheese Recipes

healthy grilled cheese recipe

So good–and good for you too!


So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite type of grilled cheese sandwich? Hint: mine’s a tie between healthy tomato and mozzarella Caprese and good old American Cheddar. Please leave a comment and enjoy your day!

February 3, 2016

It’s Groundhog Day All Over Again

by Maria Schulz

You BETTER NOT see your shadow!

Good news, everyone: a number of rodents, a.k.a. “Groundhogs,” have spoken their weird groundhog language, confirming that they did not in fact see their shadows. So we’re NOT going to have six more weeks of winter! Whew.

Unfortunately, I’m not as delighted as I expected. Even though I wake up every morning praying: “Please no more snow. PLEASE NO MORE SNOW,” I also realize that I’m about 10 years behind on my goal to weigh less so I look good in a bathing suit. If spring comes early, I’m in trouble. But then again, what good will six weeks do for me?

Six weeks isn't enough

Six weeks isn’t enough

Despite Punxsutawney Phil’s proclamations, I know in my heart of hearts that he’s probably not telling us anything weather related. If his translator really spoke “groundhogese,” he would probably declare to the crowd:

Things Phil would like to get off his chest

Things Phil would like to get off his chest

“Phil says get lost!”

“Phil wants to know WHAT THE HELL YOU IDIOTS WANT, anyway.”

“Phil says his name is really Florence.”

“Phil says that he comes from Iowa, and no, he will NOT predict the outcome of the presidential race for you.”

“Phil thinks Donald Trump is really Staten Island Chuck in a wig.”

Whatever it is that Phil is trying to tell us, I’m afraid that my delight in learning that he was shadow-less this morning will be short-lived. No sooner will I be getting my shorts and tank tops out of the attic then there will be a raging snow-storm and I’ll have to break out the shovels again.

I think I can ride today

I don’t see my shadow either

Yes, I’m old enough to remember that February is the month that blizzards like to call home. The fact is, you don’t even have to be that old. You could be 2 and have fond memories of being buried in snowdrifts just last year.

One of my favorite snow memories comes from high school, approximately 300 years ago. I was in the 10th grade, and for some reason, I ignored the blizzard warnings and went into school. About ¼ of the way through our day, as we all stared out the windows, we realized that it looked like we were attending school in Siberia.

Such a troublemaker

Such a troublemaker

Being rational folk, everyone (teachers and students alike) began to panic at the thought of being stranded in school with…each other. Eeesh, perish the thought. So we all began to gather our things and get ready to rush out into the snow.

It was sixth period, and I had stayed behind to help my English teacher, Mr. Reines, gather some of his lesson plans together before we left. He began to fret that by staying behind to help him, I had put myself in danger (the snow was really piling up) and I wouldn’t get home all right.

Past car rides with Mr. R

Past car rides with Mr. R

“I’ll drive you home,” he said to me. “It’s not safe for you to walk all that way.”

“No thanks, I’ve seen how you drive. I’m better off walking.” I replied, in the obnoxious way of the beast known as the teenager.

“Seriously, you’re going to freeze out there.”

“No, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I like the snow!” (This was possibly the last time those words crossed my lips).

So long, Crabby

So long, Crabby

I waved goodbye, much the same way that Brisbane (of Little Rascals fame) waved goodbye as he said “So long, Crabby!” to Mrs. Crabtree. Mr. Reines drove off, and I walked the opposite way towards home.

I had never been out walking in the eerie quiet of a major snowstorm. It was peaceful, beautiful, and just a little bit creepy. The streets of my neighborhood were blanketed in pristine white snow. For great stretches of time, the only things I heard were the snow crunching beneath my boots and the sound of my labored breathing as I got farther away from school and yet no closer to home.

Selfie from that day

Selfie from that day

It began to occur to me that I would be home by now if I had just let my teacher do something nice for me. Instead, I might just be found in a few months frozen in a block of ice. The worst part of all? Mr. Reines would forever know that he was right and I was wrong.

Occasionally, the quiet would be shattered by a gang of screaming teenaged boys that would run by, throw snowballs at me, and latch onto the bumper of the odd passing car. But mostly, it was a pleasant walk, filled with thoughts and dreams that included dozens of inches of snow so school would be closed all week.

Am I home yet?

Am I home yet?

By the time I crossed the threshold of my house, my hands, feet, and nose were frozen solid and it took a few hours to crack the snow off my eyelashes. Still, I remember that walk fondly, even if I did look like a Yeti by the time I got home.

Did I mention that it was April? I bet that ba$t@!d Phil predicted an early spring that year too.

Recipe:

Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe from Good Housekeeping slashes the fat, sodium, and calories so you can have your pot pie and eat it too…plus (maybe) fit in that bathing suit if spring ever actually arrives.

It's made with phyllo...it has to be good

It’s made with phyllo…it has to be good

So…what’s your favorite Groundhog Day story? Do you have any fond winter or snow memories? Which comfort food recipe is your favorite? Please leave a comment and let us all know.

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